Company: Upstreet Craft Brewing
Locations: Charlettown, P.E.I. and Dartmouth, N.S.
Industry: Food and Drink
Size: Medium (50-60 employees)
“We knew that in order for us to stand out this is what we had to do. It’s not just about profit. It’s about something much bigger than that. I think that purpose-led companies are the future.”
– Mitch Cobb
CEO and Co-Founder, Upstreet Craft Brewing
To refresh the community.
Upstreet Craft Brewing opened in Charlettown, P.E.I in June 2015. The business consists of their main production brewery with a restaurant and a tap room, a retail location in Charlottetown, and a second brewery with restaurant that opened in October 2018 in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. They also sell wholesale to provincial liquor commissions across Atlantic Canada and directly to restaurants.
Although they’re a brewery that creates refreshing beverages, their purpose – to refresh the community – isn’t just a clever play on words. “It applies to so many different levels of what we’re trying to do in terms of giving back to the community, creating community, doing things differently in the community,” says Mitch Cobb, CEO and co-founder of Upstreet. It’s all part of their desire to do business differently, which includes sourcing supplies as locally as possible and creating meaningful long-term employment in their community.
Upstreet has also started the Do Good Fund, which receives 10 percent of profits from their Do Gooder beer. Through this fund they partner with local arts organizations and aim to “refresh the community” through arts and culture.
Deciding on purpose
Upstreet’s purpose is the starting point of their business strategy and guides the decisions they make. But Cobb admits it’s not always been easy. Deciding what ingredients and products to buy, and looking at their impact on the environment and the community, along with their cost, has been challenging. “It’s really difficult when you’re trying to source ingredients. There’s always a cheaper option,” he says. Rather than ignore these conflicts, he’s tackling them head-on by developing policies that make it easier to choose the options that align with their purpose.
And though their purpose isn’t something they’ve communicated explicitly to their customers, it’s what they are known for and what their customers expect. “Our brand has become synonymous with community,” says Cobb, adding that their customers are looking for companies that share their values. “They want us to be authentic and transparent, and if we’re not, they can sniff it out a mile away.”
Because of this, Cobb is looking for ways to make their purpose and commitment to their communities even more central to Upstreet’s business strategy.
When a company has trouble getting their employees to go home at the end of the day, you know they’re doing something right.
“I’m shocked at the level of dedication our employees have. It’s hard to get them to go home.” Cobb credits their company’s purpose with inspiring this dedication. “We wouldn’t have people jumping in to help or coming out on their day off if they didn’t feel committed to the cause and if they didn’t believe in what we’re trying to do.”
He also credits their purpose with helping them find staff. Cobb says they consistently hear from applicants and employees that they want to work with them because of their role in the community and their values.
Upstreet, whose 50 or so employees are mostly under the age of 35, has created full-time, year-round skilled jobs for youth on the Island. “P.E.I. is a very seasonal place and the beer industry is very seasonal, but we’ve worked hard to try and create jobs that are year round,” says Cobb. “It means everybody works a little harder in the summer and they’ll go slower in the winter. It balances itself out.”
Standing out with purpose
With the rising popularity of craft breweries in recent years, Upstreet’s purpose has helped them stand out in an increasingly crowded market. Cobb credits their purpose with being instrumental in growing revenue. Because their customers and employees are attracted to their purpose, it’s made business sense for Upstreet to focus on this differentiator. And they have the credentials to prove it: Upstreet is a certified B Corp which means they consider all of their stakeholders in their business decisions.
“We knew that in order for us to stand out this is what we had to do. It’s not just about profit. It’s about something much bigger than that,” says Cobb. “I think that purpose-led companies are the future.”